TEAM workations

Let employees mix work with play by doing their job while traveling.

What is a workation?

“Workation” is a relatively new term that’s a mishmash of “work” and “vacation.” The idea is simple but novel: let employees mix work with play by doing their job while traveling. And why not? Thanks to online communication, collaboration, and productivity tools, companies are no longer confined to traditional working models. Assuming there’s fast internet, modern teams can work from anywhere!

So it’s goodbye office and hello tropical beach – a temporary trade that gives employees a well-earned change of scenery without hindering output.

Workations may sound outlandish, but the team at Surf Office has been doing (and benefiting from) them for years! For example, Simon spends months surfing in Bali each year while simultaneously nurturing relationships with our customers. And Peter managed to onboard new hotel partners while hiking in Zion National Park.

It was this type of hands-on experience – in combination with our experience organizing hundreds of group retreats for remote-first companies – that led us to start helping our customers integrate workations into their remote policies.

Different types of workations

Not all workations are made equal, though. It isn’t an exact science, but there are roughly 3 different types: short-term, medium-term, and long-term. Each has its own distinct use case and set of benefits, so here’s a brief summary to help you decide which workation would be most suitable for your team:

Short-term workations

Have you ever spent a long weekend catching up on work? Well, a short-term workation is a bit like that, except you’d hop on a train or plane to go somewhere new. Imagine a weekend break with work thrown in, and you’re pretty close!

You don’t actually have to arrange it at the weekend, either. In fact, midweek’s arguably better. That way, the team can come back from a relaxing few days in a new environment and enjoy a standard weekend at home.

Given the time constraints, you wouldn’t want to travel too far for a short-term workation. A brief train ride or short-haul flight is the most you can afford. A team in San Diego might fly to Las Vegas, for example. Or a London-based company might travel to a quaint village in Northern France. You get the idea! Short-term vacations are exactly that…short. It’s a quick refresher and change of scenery to reward hard work and recharge a team’s batteries.

Medium-term workations

A step up in duration, medium-term workations can last anywhere from one week to one month. The benefit of this extra time is two-fold: employees get an extended break from the office and can venture much further afield as a result.

For instance, that same team in San Diego could fly cross-country to New York State. And the company in London might travel to the Portuguese coast or even somewhere on America’s eastern shoreline! Regardless of the precise destination, having ample time makes the process of getting there and seeing the sights less stressful. The team can settle into their new “home.” They can work, explore, and enjoy local leisure activities without excessive FOMO or time constraints.

Furthermore, when it’s eventually time to leave, employees are much more likely to feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready for any challenges that lay ahead. To put it another way, the outcomes companies aim for with workations are far more certain.

Long-term workations

Last but not least is long-term workations, which can last months or even years. Unlike the previous types, these trips are more like temporary relocations than vacations. They’re amazing opportunities for employees to move to a new place (or places!) and continue working from there remotely.

The downside to long-term workations is they’re far more complex – and the only type Surf Office doesn’t help organize. There are significant logistical considerations to tackle because of the extensive time frame. For instance, it’s common for host countries to demand special visas or permits for remote workers; residency and tax implications can also arise, throwing further spanners into the works for both the employee and their employer.

Don’t dismiss them altogether, though. Long-term workations are perfect for employees with itchy feet. They open the door to far-flung destinations that would be unfeasible for shorter stays. If team members are tired of their current routine and desperate for change, they could be ideal.

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Planning a workation for your team

The simplest and most cost-effective way to organize an unforgettable team workation is to get Surf Office to do it for you! If you decide to plan it yourself, though, be sure to keep the following tips in mind:

1. Take time zones into account

The local time is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a location for your team workation. Fail to take it into account and you risk inconveniencing your employees and customers.

For instance, imagine how much harder it’d be to conduct virtual meetings if you’re normally based in California but go to southern France for a medium-term workation. Eight hours ahead of home, your usual morning check-ins would take place at the end of your new work day. Worse still, you’d have to wake up in the early hours to handle late afternoon client meetings.

This isn’t as problematic for whole company workations, where every employee’s in the same place. But it’s generally sensible to pick locations with local times that align with your typical routine and/or don’t overly impact your ability to work.   

2. Choose accommodation with fast internet

If you want your video-conferencing software to function, cloud-based files to be accessible, and collaborative tools to operate, then make sure you stay somewhere with awesome Wi-Fi. Without it, you can’t work as efficiently (or at all), which would have obvious knock-on effects on team productivity.

Thankfully, most places have fast and reliable internet nowadays. But it isn’t ubiquitous – especially if you follow our previous advice and head to the countryside. Moreover, people have different ideas about what constitutes “good internet.” So just because someone says they have it doesn’t mean it’ll suffice in reality.

This is another advantage of organizing workations through a company like Surf Office. Having been to the locations and run countless retreats in the places we recommend, we know the internet’s up to standard. Plan the trip yourself, and assuming you won’t visit ahead of time, there’s no guarantee that’s the case.

3. Go somewhere with minimal distractions

While big cities usually have the best internet, they aren’t necessarily the best for workations. Why? Because they’re so full of distractions! In our experience, the trick is to strike a balance – to pick somewhere with lots of leisure activities everyone will enjoy but that’s also conducive to working.

Think back to the locations we recommended earlier. From Ericeira to Napa Valley, each destination’s a) full of things to do and b) surrounded by natural landscapes, where peace and quiet reign supreme. The best of both worlds, it’s easy to focus during work hours and unwind/have fun during leisure time.

Think about the type of workation you want, though. If team-building takes priority over productivity, for example, then a short-term city break could be ideal.

4. Book ahead of time

No matter the location, try to book things like transport and accommodation well in advance – especially if your workation will fall in peak season. This should:

  • Boost your chances of securing the accommodation you want
  • Guarantee there’ll be enough seats on airplanes and beds in hotels
  • Help you purchase tickets (e.g., for flights) at reduced rates
  • Help you avoid exorbitant last-minute prices
  • Ensure everyone has the dates/details long before the trip, meaning they can update their calendars and make necessary arrangements outside work

Of course, the same goes for any group activities you want to do together or meals out you wish to have. Booking early is the best way to ensure there’s enough space for everyone. As you can imagine, this is particularly important when you’re organizing a workation for large groups. 

5. Hire Surf Office to help

With years of experience organizing successful workations, plus longstanding relationships with trusted local partners, Surf Office has all the necessary tools to help you plan the perfect trip. Simply tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll handle the logistics, saving your business precious time and money.

Don’t want the stress of finding a suitable location? Want guaranteed high-speed internet to facilitate productivity? How about a compelling mix of wonderful views, first-class accommodation, and fun leisure activities? That’s where we come in. Contact us today for more information or to get the ball rolling.

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Workation destinations

There’s no shortage of destinations to consider for your next workation. The world is literally your oyster! Nevertheless, we always encourage companies to look beyond big cities. While the copious leisure activities in these places make them tempting, they’re also full of distractions that can hinder productivity. We find rural destinations work best – especially when they’re a) close enough to accommodate the length of your workation and b) in a similar time zone to your clients and/or colleagues.

Surf Office organizes retreats for companies in 130+ different locations. Here’s a short selection of places we recommend for workations of any duration:

1. Ericeira, Portugal 

Located just 30 minutes from Lisbon airport is the stunning Portuguese fishing village of Ericeira. When they’re not working, your team can enjoy breathtaking coastal views, dine on freshly caught seafood, take surf lessons, and/or hike along the cliffs. The sunsets, beaches, and authentic feel are all to die for.

2. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is one of Italy’s (if not Europe’s) most iconic destinations. Renowned for its charming landscapes, medieval villages, picture-perfect vineyards, and storied history, it’s a glorious location for any workation. The local infrastructure is well set up to accommodate modern companies in need of fast internet, too.

3. Catskill Mountains, New York

If you work in a  team of outdoor enthusiasts, look no further than the Catskill Mountains as your next workation destination. Located in southeast New York, the Catskills offer endless nature-filled activities that’ll lift people’s spirits, alleviate stress levels, and bring the team closer together while they work.

4. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park offers stunning canyons, epic waterfalls, and awe-inspiring views. Leisure activities range from the adventurous (did somebody say canyoneering?) to the sublime (like swimming in crystal clear pools), but there’s truly something for everyone. The infrastructure available in the cozy town of Springdale, including surprisingly fast internet, is the cherry on top.

5. Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley’s another dreamy destination for hardworking nature lovers. Located in northern California, it has over 53,000 acres of protected hills, mountains, and fields to explore! Combine that with its endless wineries and amazing food scene, and this gorgeous rolling landscape is an ideal setting to recharge, reconnect, and innovate.

Team activities for workations

You spend most of your workation hard at work, so evenings and weekends provide great opportunities to spice things up with fun leisure activities. Obviously, the exact things you can do will depend on where you go! Nevertheless, here’s a taste of what’s usually on offer:

Hiking

Whether you head to the Catskills or Gran Canaria, Zion National Park, or Lake Tahoe, you’re never far from a trail or two. Step away from the desk for a short lunchtime walk together, or don your hiking boots for a longer weekend trek. Either way, you’ll have nothing but fresh air, beautiful views, and each other for company.

Beach days

It wouldn’t be a vacation without spending time at the local beach! An unbeatable way to unwind, pack a towel, and head to the nearest stretch of sand to sunbathe, swim, surf, and stroll the day away – not to mention play volleyball and make sand castles! With so many activities on offer, beach days are ideal for big groups. 

Winery tours

Some workation destinations, such as Napa Valley or Tuscany, enable you to go on winery tours together. A memorable activity and a blissful way to relax, imagine gazing out over glorious landscapes while learning about sumptuous local wines (and tasting them all as you go!). 

Sailing trips

Go somewhere like Ericeira in Portugal or Mallorca in Spain, and you’ll have the ocean at your fingertips. Why not make the most of it by organizing a sailing trip for the whole team? We’ve done this all over the world for our customers, booking enough boats to take everyone onto the water – usually at sunset! 

Games nights

The leisure activities you do on workation don’t need to be extravagant. Case and point? Games nights. Hosted at your accommodation, you can get together for an evening of Monopoly, improv games, trivia, or anything else you want to play. It’s budget-friendly, easy to organize, good for team-building, and ideal in bad weather. 

Sharing meals together

Delicious food has a lovely habit of bringing people together, and one of the joys of travel is sampling the local cuisine. No surprise, then, that sharing meals on workation is such a popular activity – particularly when everyone’s at the same venue. Making such large reservations is challenging, but don’t worry. That’s something Surf Office can help with, too.

Check out our guide to team-building activities for large groups.

For more information and to get started planning your retreat, get in touch with Surf Office. We’re happy to help!

Case studies

Still unconvinced about the virtues of workations? Here are four companies for which Surf Office has organized a recent workation. Reading about their experiences may shed light on why these trips are so powerful.

Enigma’s week-long workation in Ericeira

This Switzerland-based digital agency recently flew its 32-person team to Ericeira for a week of hard work and team bonding. In-person meetings, brainstorming sessions, unconventional co-working spaces, informal hangouts, and epic group surf lessons made it a roaring success.

The productivity, fresh ideas, and renewed confidence in their remote-first approach led Nadine Nassif to say, “We absolutely loved our Surf Office retreat. It was everything and more than what we had hoped for.”

Mynd workaway resulted in 12 new product features

Mynd is a property management company based in California. For their work retreat, Mynd’s team of 32 people relocated for 10 days to Surf Office Barcelona. Like Avocode, they spent the first three days running a hackathon. The team developed 12 new product features in a quick sprint of innovation.

Mynd’s approach to their work retreat was to prepare beforehand; key design elements were already in place when they arrive in Spain. As a result, the team could move quickly and work without designers. Consider what you need to do to prepare before arriving onsite for your work retreat.

Amun’s 48-hour hackathon in Mallorca

This leading cryptocurrency issuer took its team of 45 entrepreneurs, engineers, and financial product developers to Mallorca for a 6-day workation with plenty of team bonding thrown in for good measure.

The retreat centered on a monster 48-hour hackathon, which they washed down with glorious ocean views, karaoke, and coffee. As Brian Aznar, VP of Engineering, said, “Any time our company comes together to meet in person, every single person is affected by that. Whether they’re new or have been here a while, they take something away.”

Parkside used their workation to boost their brand

Finally, Parkside is a digital agency based in Switzerland, came to stay with us for 12 days in Gran Canaria with the aim of taking some time & space to focus on their own business, looking to rebrand and reshape their website.

They wanted to focus without the distraction of client projects and with undisturbed streams of productivity. It was an intense few days with some long, solid working hours, but, being only meters from the beach, they had time to relax and surf too.

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What is included in our team retreat packages?

1. Workspace & Meeting Space

Are you planning a strategy meeting, design sprint, hackathon, kickoff meeting of a new project or “just” regular work time?

Whatever it is, we’ve got your back.

Expect a professional working environment with:

  • Desks and chairs
  • Meeting room
  • Whiteboard
  • Projector with all the fancy adapters
  • Post-its, markers, pencils, stickers & pens

And of course, very fast internet.

2. Accommodation

Each team has a bit of a different expectation when it comes to their retreat experience and that’s why you have the flexibility to choose different types of accommodation ranging from premium ensuite rooms to shared accommodation.

All of our accommodation options are located in central areas within walking distance from the restaurants and grocery stores. You don’t need to rent a car or use public transportation to move around. We want to make your stay as easy as possible.

You have 100% security that your booking won’t be canceled (anyone with experience of last-minute group booking cancellation can relate).

We understand that your team might be growing and you might need to add additional rooms over time, you’ll have this flexibility too.

3. Team Retreat Planning & Facilitation

We’ve built a system that makes retreat planning easy and fast.

We’ll plan every detail of your retreat from start to finish, so that you don’t have to. This includes:

  • Reservation of activities, transport & restaurants
  • Tips for local places to visit and activities
  • Crafting of unique experiences
  • Troubleshooting

You will get a personalized schedule and online dashboard with all of your retreat information before your retreat starts. Our onsite support will show you everything you need to know upon your arrival and make sure everything goes smoothly for you and your team.

Organize your next company retreat with Surf Office

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“Thanks for a great offsite venue @surfoffice – we had a blast!”

James Allgrove, Head of Growth at Stripe UK

Next steps after requesting a quote

1. Confirm Details

You will confirm with us the number of people, location (we can also recommend the best location based on where your team is located and prices of flights), dates and your desired setup for accommodation.

2. Invoice & Payment

After confirming details, we will send you an invoice. You can pay by wire transfer, credit/debit card or PayPal.

3. Team Retreat Planning

This process is super easy. With our playbook you will quickly create a personalized schedule. We’ll make sure you get all the information well before your retreat time and you will have our support person available throughout the whole process.

4. Retreat Time

Expect an introductory tour after your arrival. Our onsite support is available in case you need anything. We will give you local tips and remind you about your planned activities throughout the retreat.

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